In the interest of full disclosure I must admit up front that I am a huge John Grisham fan. Huge.
I started reading Grisham books as a teen and found them to be the perfect thing to fill the void after watching all the episodes of Matlock, Quincy, Murder She Wrote, and Columbo my TV had to offer.
In other words, I do enjoy a good detective/murder/mystery story. Grisham is usually a little heavy on the courtroom-lawyer side of things – that’s okay (see I liked Matlock already) but there’s still some good suspense building throughout his stories which is yummy and delicious. His characters are so very real – and there’s always someone that’s fun to root for or against.
The Racketeer is the first Grisham I’ve picked up in ages and it did not disappoint.
Malcolm Bannister is a convicted criminal, serving 10 years in a low security facility for a crime he swears he did not commit. He doesn’t waste his time filing appeals and arguing his case to the warden, he was a lawyer and he knows how these things work. He knows he would only be wasting his own time – and he has five years left.
Malcolm adopts the attitude that he just has to get through one day at a time. He just needs to survive, and the best way to get through each day is to find some way of passing the time.
He works a the prison librarian, he reads a lot and after successfully helping another inmate secure an early release, Malcolm becomes the resident prison lawyer. He devotes time each week to his fellow prisoners, looking through their legal papers, promising to help where he can. He hears a lot of claims of innocence, a lot of pleading for freedom. He hears one story that might help him walk out of prison a free man, with a new identity, a clean slate and enough money to start a new life. He just needs to make some deals and tell some stories of his own.
For the most The Racketeer is a fairly straight forward story, there are twists but nothing too crazy and you can see most of them coming. What makes the story so good though is the building tension, the game of cat and mouse, the sitting on the edge of your seat as you read wondering if Malcolm is about to get caught, if his whole concocted scheme is about to fall apart on the very next page.